How to Run A Successful Concession Stand Fundraiser

Are you tasked with running a concession stand fundraiser for a booster club or other organization? I am and I’m trying to make it work more efficiently.

Recently, a booster club I volunteer with decided to revamp the way we handle our concessions stand. In the last year or so, we moved from offering just chips, drinks and candy to hot foods like burgers, dogs, nachos and pretzels. This was an enormous undertaking but has dramatically increased our concessions revenue. Our biggest challenge now is finding volunteers to man the stand during sporting events. We realize that we are going to need to figure out how to share the concessions proceeds with the teams. The biggest challenge here is that several teams share a concession stand during their season. For example, boys and girls soccer and lacrosse play in the stadium during the spring. How do we split the proceeds fairly, then?

We’ve come up with a plan that we will test during the spring sports season. I think it will work great and I’m sharing it here in hopes that it will help other organizations solve similar problems.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. My group has already navigated these initial set up items. If you are just beginning a concession stand fundraiser, start here for some tips on getting set up.

Concession Stand Set Up

There are some things you can set up to make stocking the stand easier and more efficient.

Dedicated concessions email

Use GSuite (it’s free for nonprofits) to set up a dedicated email address for concessions. This allows multiple people to manage different aspects of the concessions program without the confusion of lengthy email chains or information that isn’t shared.

Warehouse club membership

Most of the warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club & Costco and many grocery stores have a click and pull feature. Order everything you need on the website and pick it up at the door. You can store your credit or debit card on the account so you there isn’t a need to provide cards to anyone who picks up and no one needs to be reimbursed.

Set your organization up with a drink provider

A Coca-Cola or Pepsi rep can provide many benefits

  • Free delivery
  • No minimum orders
  • Free returns and replacements
  • A wide variety of drink offerings
  • Our rep has provided us with free drink coolers and signage at no cost

Buy a tablet or two

You can get a tablet for under $150. Get set up with a credit card reader from Square and set up a store on your tablet.

Decide what you want to sell

The easiest and most profitable items to sell are popcorn, shaved ice, and cotton candy. They also require specialized equipment which you should factor into the cost. They are easy for your volunteers to manage, though, so seriously consider them. Depending on game times, you may want to offer hotdogs, burgers or other hot sandwiches. Grilling up some tasty meats sends the scents wafting through your stands enticing people to buy. Prepackaged foods like chips and candy are always an easy sell.

Purchase the equipment you need

It is inexpensive to buy a popcorn or cotton candy machine. Warming bags and tabletop ovens are more expensive. Look for used restaurant equipment for best prices. You may also partner with a local pizza joint or fast food restaurant and they may give you a warming bag.

Decide on your food prices

I recommend pricing items at least twice your cost. Try to keep your pricing simple. If most of your drinks cost you $1 to purchase, sell all your drinks at $2. Make it easy on your volunteers.

Concessions Volunteer Management

Managing concessions volunteers is probably the most daunting task involved in running a concession stand fundraising operation. There are a few ways to make this easier.

Profit Sharing

A great way to get volunteers is to share profits with other organizations or teams.

  • If you are running a concessions stand for a multi-team booster club, require volunteers from the teams staff the stand to share in the profits.
  • Use your Square store to figure out how much each team sold. Hint: Enable Cash Management in the settings.
  • Keep your teams motivated by letting them know how much they made.
  • If you are still having trouble getting volunteers, consider opening the profit sharing up to other community groups. Many college & pro stadiums and arenas do this very successfully.

Stay Organized

Mitsy offers a robust volunteer scheduling tool along with other really helpful features.

  • Set up your volunteer spots early – as soon as you know your schedule, create your signup sheets
  • Be specific – tell your volunteers exactly what is expected of them and the time commitment
  • Set up automatic reminders so you don’t have to field a zillion emails.
  • Put up helpful instruction signs in your stand, but don’t get too wordy. Make it simple for volunteers to do what you need them to do.

Stay on top of your Concessions Stand

Finally, you are going to need to continue to evaluate your stand and make tweaks and improvements as the season goes on. Dumping non-sellers and increasing sales are your main priority at this point.

Check your Stand

Set up a schedule for checking and restocking the stand. Weekly during the season is probably appropriate. Pay attention to what is selling and what is sitting. Check expiration dates. You don’t want to be in the business of selling expired food or drink. Expired sodas become flat and that won’t do anything for your reputation. Expired food creates even more serious problems.

Know your stats

Keep an eye on your sales to help determine what your best sellers are. Know what your best-selling days of the week & game times are. Understand what your losses are either from product that has expired or from “shrinkage” (a fancy name for theft). Listen to your volunteers. Are certain game times too busy for the number of people staffing the stand? Are some game times over staffed? Be respectful of your volunteers’ time.

Order smart/Prepare smart

Very simply, it is better to run out of a concession stand food than to have too much.

Sports and food just go together. By having a vibrant concession stand, you are not only making money for your organization, but you are adding value to the spectators. Go for it and let us know how it works!